Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Book Review: The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
Author: Amy Tan
Enjoyment Rating: ***
This book would be rated: R, for descriptions of courtesan life
Violet grows up as the spoiled and petted half-Chinese daughter of the owner of a courtesan house in Shanghai. When she's fourteen, her mother decides to return home to San Francisco, and due to a number of double-crosses and shady deals, Violet is left behind in Shanghai, where she soon becomes a courtesan herself. The Valley of Amazement is, like many Amy Tan novels, a story of struggle, mother-daughter relationships, and, eventually, a sense of peace.
I read so many books that they tend to blend together after a while. I've noticed that Ed, who probably reads a couple dozen books a year, has a much easier time remembering plot lines than I do. But I must have read Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha at an impressionable time in my life, because it's a book that I remember really well. And as I was reading The Valley of Amazement, I couldn't get over how similar the books are. Yes, I do realize that MoaG takes place in Japan, while VoA takes place in China, but the time periods are relatively similar, and the exacting descriptions of courtesan life are almost identical, including the description of the sale of the girls' virginity. However, I much preferred MoaG. The Valley of Amazement is fine in and of itself, but it doesn't hold up well in the inevitable comparison.